How Long do You Give Away Your Services Before Charging?

I have three of my own small businesses. I have a blogging and online media business, a flash mob consulting business, and a DJ business. They are all making money now, but I had to start each of them with no revenue.

 

Why Work For Free

In some industries, you should never start working for free. If you provide a concrete service with a measurable value, such as accounting or financial consulting, you should charge for everything up front. However, if you are providing a service that requires a reputation and referrals, you might have to go the free route while you are starting up.

I did my first blog posts and flash mobs, for example, totally free. I actually started them without the idea of making any money. Over time, though, I realized I had built a solid reputation and people were willing to pay me for my services.

Starting out a new DJ business, I intended on profits from day one. However, you need a good reputation to charge money for DJ services. To build a reputation, I have done a few shows for free and have some good work and referrals under my belt. I am booked for my first wedding this fall.

 

When to Stop Being Free

The short and not so simple answer: As soon as humanly possible

You are not a charity. I have been asked to do charity flash mobs. I do like helping non-profits, but I am not a charity and my time and efforts are valuable. As such, I charge a discounted rate to plan events for a non-profit. But I still charge.

I take blog guest posts from friends and similar minded finance bloggers, but if you are trying to promote your company, you are an advertiser. You don’t get to reach my audience, which I worked hard to build and work hard to entertain and teach, for free. I also reject ads and guest posts that I can’t disclose and endorse. I have worked hard to build trust, and I am not throwing that away for a few bucks.

I am charging for DJ shows now. I do parties at my place and friend’s houses for free, because I think it is fun, but I don’t extend the same offer to groups trying to make money.

For your business, you will have to use your own judgment, but it should be early on. Don’t work for free very long, particularly if someone is trying to make money off of you.

 

How to Transition from Free to Paid

Stop saying yes to free requests. Start charging people. Get your first sale.

Your first sale is a huge psychological milestone. It is proof that someone will pay you for what you have to offer. Pretty sweet, right?

Getting to your first sale takes a lot of work, but each new sale from there is much easier. But before you can do that, you have to stop saying yes to free services.

People might be used to seeing you as a free provider, as you gave away your service for free a few times to build your reputation. However, you have to hold firm and know that you are worth the money. You can’t be weak and give it.

Charge people for what you do. You are worth it.

About Eric Rosenberg

Eric is a finance blogger at Narrow Bridge Finance and a serial entrepreneur. He runs a media company, flash mob company, and DJ business from his hometown in Denver, Colorado. You can read more about his finance background and connect with him around the web.

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